The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised the leading role played by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Khalifa Award in promoting sustainable agriculture, date production, and agricultural innovation at both the regional and international levels. This was announced on March 15 in Abu Dhabi by the presence of Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Waer, Assistant Director-General of the FAO and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.
Dr. Al-Waer praised the role of the award in encouraging more investment in this important sector and promoting the exchange of knowledge and best practices. He also confirmed that the FAO is committed to supporting sustainable agriculture and rural development, realizing the important role that date palm cultivation plays in achieving these goals.
Dr. Al-Waer stated during his welcoming remarks, that the global date production was around 2 million tons in the mid-1960s, whereas in 2021, it reached approximately 9.7 million tons produced in about 40 countries, with global trade reaching 1.74 million tons (1.16 million tons to Arab countries) valued at about $2.3 billion. Despite the significant progress made, the palm and date industry still faces many challenges in terms of productivity, product quality, handling and processing, post-harvest, marketing, and trade.
Dr. Al-Waer added that there are many challenges facing this sector, including human development challenges, upgrading institutional environments, and keeping pace with policies and legislation, weak effective coordination at the national, regional, and international levels, lack of information about the sector, and lack of coordination of research. Additionally, pressure on natural resources, genetic erosion, and lack of biodiversity are among the sector’s challenges. He also highlighted that climate change is causing water resource shortages, drought, and soil salinity, as well as contributing to the spread of pests and diseases such as the red palm weevil.
Finally, he emphasized the importance of regional cooperation and coordination organizations to exchange knowledge and expertise in this sector.